Whistler snowboarder survives avalanche thanks to inflatable backpack

Snowboarder survives avalanche descent in Canada with help of inflatable backpack

Snowboarder Tom Oye is shown being caught up in an avalanche this week in Whistler, Canada.

The inflatable backpack reacts similarly to a vehicle airbag, and ABC reports that it was a gift from family and friends on Oye's most recent visit home.

"It was insane to feel the power of all that snow moving together".

A fellow boarder then appears and asks if Oye is alright.

"That was a little scary", Oye concludes when his friend comes to the rescue. By Thursday afternoon, the video had drawn more than four million views worldwide - but the man himself was off the radar.

Throughout the video, you'll hear a unusual buzzing sound, and that's probably what saved Oye's life.

An Australian TV news crew tracked down Oye's family in Adelaide.

"It's hard to say exactly if he would've been buried without it, but I think he's quite lucky that he had the avalanche airbag on".

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Marlene said she has seen her grandson pull all kinds of insane stunts, but was still shook up when she saw the footage.

He said: "You could just see him sort of on the surface. But it was a bit scary". Strangely enough, he didn't get hurt at all.

The device that saved Oye is a Jetforce inflatable backpack made by Austrian company Pieps. The Black Diamond bag Oye wore costs $1,100 (£900, AU$1,470), and his friends recently gave it to him as a gift. Other companies make similar devices.

Another snowboarder is quickly on the scene to help Mr Oye out.

When a trigger on the shoulder strap is pulled, the backpack can inflate into an airbag (thanks to a high-speed fan).

Haegeli said those who use the airbags are half as likely to be killed if an avalanche strikes than those who don't.

"There's no substitute for good planning and informed decision making", he said.

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